Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Tiny but Mighty: The Garage-Brewed Beer That's a Big Hit

The small-batch approach at CoStar Brewery wins nanobrewery acclaim among craft-beer enthusiasts.




Dominic Cincotta stirs the brew kettle / photos by cory morton
 

Garage-based innovation often is a product of specific times and geographies. Silicon Valley’s technology titans tinkered on leafy side streets in the late 1970s. In 1990s Seattle, flannel-clad bands kept neighbors awake while rocking deep into the night. Pittsburgh’s roots run a little more blue-collar. Here, now, it’s beer.

Dominic Cincotta and Jeff Hanna officially licensed the CoStar Brewery label in 2012. The name comes from the alley where their Highland Park nanobrewery was created and still remains. It’s a part-time thing — they both have day jobs — but one that’s earned heaps of respect in Pittsburgh’s craft-beer community. 

“They might be brewing in very small quantities, but their product is among the best in Pittsburgh,” says Peter Kurzweg, co-owner of The Independent Brewing Company in Squirrel Hill. “Small quantities” is an understatement: CoStar produces a scant two kegs per week. Nevertheless, Kurzweg says he likes CoStar’s beer so much that, “I have with them a ‘We will take as much as we can buy at any given moment’ standing order.’”
 

 
Cincotta and Jeff Hanna at work through a typical brew Saturday at CoStar Brewery

 

Hanna gets things rolling in his two-car garage every Saturday around 7 a.m. by firing up an old-school homebrew kettle. Cincotta typically joins him a few hours later to help with the rest of brew day; they’ll roll through three cycles to fill one of the brewery’s four one-barrel fermenters. Hanna’s wife, Caitlyn, also is a partner in the business, as is his brother Thomas. 

Once the beer is brewing, it’s a pretty mellow day in the brewery. There are a couple of chairs (“In the beginning we’d just sit on the floor,” says Cincotta), notebooks, brew books and a 27-inch HD television with Roku. “We watch a lot of shows about beer,” Hanna says.
 

 

Obsession with craft beer brought together the two avid mountain bikers — that’s how they often spend their other days off. The friends happened to buy homebrew kits at the same time in 2006, and they soon became part of the city’s community of homebrewing enthusiasts. Cincotta’s love of beer is notable for its next-level enthusiasm; his doctoral thesis is about how regionality affects the communal identity of breweries. “So far, nobody’s found a way to get ‘slippy’ into a beer. You can’t ‘red up’ a flavor and get that into a beer,” he says.

As is typical for a lot of homebrewers, they believed their beer measured up to the commercial brews they were tasting. “We’d have bottles in our backpacks when we went out at night, and we’d give them to bartenders,” Cincotta says.

Adds Hanna: “We weren’t planning on starting a brewery, though. But our friends at the bars started asking if they could buy it. So we decided to figure out how to do it.”

It’s one thing to feel proud of the beer you’re brewing. It’s another thing to sell it to the public. They hesitated. But then, Cincotta says, “We’d had a bit of whiskey at Jeff’s wedding. Literally right before he was about to walk down the aisle, I whispered in his ear, ‘We could do this.’”

Pittsburgh’s professional brewing community was supportive. East End Brewing Company owner Scott Smith invited the nascent brewery to join the wet hop festival he throws every year at Kelly’s in East Liberty. Roundabout Brewery co-owner and brewmaster Steve Sloan (then the head brewer at Church Brew Works) provided advice and encouragement.

Even though the garage is zoned for duel residential and commercial use, the Highland Park Community Council wasn’t so sure about the project. “They were worried we were going to become the next Budweiser and have big towers and delivery trucks running all day,” says Cincotta.

 

 

CoStar made a few concessions — no retail sales are allowed in the garage — and relations with the community remain positive. In fact, the brew day often turns into a mini block party. People visit throughout the day, and on warm summer evenings, neighbors bring beer and snacks and CoStar taps unfinished kegs.
CoStar has a total of 31 recipes, with a heavy tilt toward classic styles of beer. “We’re in a garage. We’re pretty straightforward,” jokes Cincotta. 

“I want to make basic, simple, good beer,” says Hanna.

​Hopland Park, the brewery’s signature beer, fits that bill. The American Pale Ale is crisp, clean and floral, with just enough citrus bitterness to let you know it’s a pale ale but not so much that you wouldn’t want to drink more than one. 

You still can’t get CoStar beer through retail sales, but a loyal following of bar owners clamors to stock the brew. In addition to the Independent Brewing Company, CoStar sells to 20 accounts. IBC and Meat & Potatoes nearly always have CoStar on tap, and it rotates through other locations including Cure, Kelly’s, Harris Grill, Butterjoint and Smallman Galley. 

“They don’t miss steps, and they don’t ever go through the motions. They are so good at what they do,” says the IBC’s Kurzweg.
 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Brew Bravado

Tiny but Mighty: The Garage-Brewed Beer That's a Big Hit

The small-batch approach at CoStar Brewery wins nanobrewery acclaim among craft-beer enthusiasts.

10 Great Bottle Shops in the Pittsburgh Area

Who buys a whole case anymore? Stop at these local spots for brews by the bottle, many of which you’d be hard-pressed to find in a distributor.

5 Places We Love to Have a Beer

The frequent joke in Pittsburgh is that we’re happy to add a few beers to nearly any occasion — any excuse is often a good one. But there are some scenarios in which beer tastes a bit better. Many involve warm-weather occasions; so as the city starts to thaw, think forward to some of our favorite activities (outside of the bar) to grab a brew.

Darks & Lights: 10 Local Brews We Recommend

Maybe you’re not a hophead — or maybe you’re just curious as to what variety will best suit your taste. Here are 10 beer styles to try (beyond the now-omnipresent IPA) and a locally brewed example of each.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Why These 6 Days in 1969 Were So Important to Pittsburgh

Why These 6 Days in 1969 Were So Important to Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, but we're not the only ones. We take a look at six notable events from 1969.
Women in Power: The Pros Changing Allegheny County

Women in Power: The Pros Changing Allegheny County

Allegheny County breaks the old boys’ club by placing women in key positions.
Growing Together: Farmers and Chefs Elevate Pittsburgh Dining

Growing Together: Farmers and Chefs Elevate Pittsburgh Dining

These seven farmer/chef pairings are leading the charge toward more vital vegetable dishes.
Afraid to Go to the Dentist? Consider the Sedation Solution

Afraid to Go to the Dentist? Consider the Sedation Solution

For some patients, dental work wouldn’t be possible if they were fully alert.
Restaurant Review: Spirits & Tales at the Oaklander Hotel

Restaurant Review: Spirits & Tales at the Oaklander Hotel

Executive chef Jessica Lewis’ strong voice is undermined by inconsistencies throughout the restaurant.
Our 50 Years: Why This Movie Landed on Our Cover

Our 50 Years: Why This Movie Landed on Our Cover

Hollywood could be found on the Mon, quite literally, in 1993 — leading to some fawning coverage of the mostly forgotten (but very, very Pittsburgh-centric) action flick “Striking Distance.”
Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

Your 10 best bets for this month include Van Gogh in Bloom, Star Wars and the return of Hootie and the Blowfish.
Restaurant Review: Masala House in Shadyside

Restaurant Review: Masala House in Shadyside

You'll find excellent Indian cuisine in a Shadyside building with a long culinary history.
A Tale of Two Strands: Theaters With the Same Name

A Tale of Two Strands: Theaters With the Same Name

In two small towns nearby, old vaudeville stages — which share the same name — have reopened and revitalized their communities.
From Pittsburgh to the Moon: Our Role in the Space Race

From Pittsburgh to the Moon: Our Role in the Space Race

As the nation and private entrepreneurs focus again on space, 50 years after Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, Pittsburgh is once again in the celestial spotlight.
Edit Module

Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags


Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Uber’s New Service Puts Riders in the Driver’s Seat

Passengers in Pittsburgh now can pay for a most customized experience with Uber Comfort.

Comments

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

Do You Want to Pay More Taxes to Improve Parks?

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy hopes to restore the city’s parks to their former glory, but they may need a tax increase to do so.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

The Latest Restaurant and Bar Openings in Pittsburgh

We say hello to a new concept from Justin Severino, a summer-long dance pop-up and a new spot for cocktails.

Comments

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

Recommended Pittsburgh Eating: 4 Recent Dishes I Loved

PM Dining Critic Hal B. Klein says a corned beef sandwich, Sichuan smashed eggplants, smoked chicken wings and a cornbread dessert have his attention.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

5 Best Spots to Hang Out with Your Dog

For those who can’t stand the idea of leaving their dogs home alone on a beautiful day, these dog-friendly stores, restaurants and bars in the Pittsburgh area welcome humans and canines alike.

Comments

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

5 Races You (Yes, You) Can Run This Year

Even novice runners can work their way up to these fun and (mildly) challenging races.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

After Dark Hall of Fame: Primanti Bros.

The beloved bar-and-restaurant chain has become a Pittsburgh emblem. It's the 10th inductee in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Comments

The Park After Dark

The Park After Dark

Kennywood’s “Night Rider” tickets may be the best bet for many visitors.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pirates’ Possibilities Include Contention in Surprising Season’s Second Half

Pirates’ Possibilities Include Contention in Surprising Season’s Second Half

It hasn’t gone according to the original script, but the Pirates have found a way to stay relevant — and may yet be capable of finishing what they started.

Comments

Pens’ Conundrum: The Coach and the Culture

Pens’ Conundrum: The Coach and the Culture

Try as he might, General Manager Jim Rutherford has so far been unable to change the makeup of his team as intended. It may, thus, ultimately fall on head coach Mike Sullivan to adjust the attitudes of players with a recent track record of resisting change for the greater good.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: The Lion King

The 400-Word Review: The Lion King

Despite a great voice cast, the new version of "The Lion King" was a bad idea from the start.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

The 400-Word Review: Secret Obsession

Netflix is on a bit of a hot streak with its original thrillers. Unfortunately, this dud isn't part of it.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Book a Band for a Different Kind of Wedding Sound

Book a Band for a Different Kind of Wedding Sound

For many couples, family and tradition means everything. Having a band that helps reflect those can be a great way to pay tribute to your heritage, while getting your guests on the dance floor.

Comments

Eleven Couples to be Married after Love at First Bite

Eleven Couples to be Married after Love at First Bite

Wedding bells will be chiming for multiple couples this weekend … and it’s taking place at Primanti Bros. in the Strip District.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
5 Pittsburgh Vintage Homes Stores You'll Want to Explore

5 Pittsburgh Vintage Homes Stores You'll Want to Explore

PM Editoral Intern Ellie Pesetsky shares some of her favorite up-cycled furniture and home decor stores in and around Pittsburgh.

Comments

Oakmont Glassware Company Looking to Join the Big Time

Oakmont Glassware Company Looking to Join the Big Time

Amanda Lee began painting glasses in her basement to help pay for her college education. Today, she ships her products across the globe from a new, shabby-chic warehouse and gift shop.

Comments